Timothy Cheruiyot and Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi win in Northern Ireland as Andy Vernon and Verity Ockenden come out on top in the British Cross Challenge

Kenyan stars Timothy Cheruiyot and Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi secured top honours at the 41st annual Antrim International Cross Country in Northern Ireland on Saturday, reports Ryan Maxwell.

The IAAF permit event, hosted by Athletics Northern Ireland and supported by Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council, also incorporated the British Athletics Cross Challenge and the Celtic International XC.

In an epic sprint finish, 2017 world 1500m silver medallist and Diamond League trophy winner Cheruiyot edged out Mogos Tuemay of Ethiopia to win the men’s 7200m race in 23:12. Tuemay also recorded 23:12 for the runner-up prize. World 3000m steeplechase silver medallist Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco completed the men’s podium with a time of 23:32.

Antrim International regular Andy Vernon (pictured below, 27) finished just outside the podium places, taking fourth place in 23:41 to secure full points in the penultimate event of the Cross Challenge series. Wales’ Kristian Jones was fifth, USA’s Trevor Dunbar sixth, Ireland’s Hugh Armstrong seventh and Scotland’s Luke Traynor eighth.


The women’s 5400m race was also a closely contested affair. Ireland’s two-time European champion Fionnuala McCormack headed the early lead pack before Ethiopian Fotyen Tesfay then led. But it was Kipkemboi (pictured below, 18) who came through, holding off the fast-finishing Tesfay (pictured below, 11) to win in 19:55.

Tesfay crossed the line in 19:56 for second place, while Bontu Edao Rebitu, who represented Bahrain at last year’s World Cross Country Championships, took third place in 19:59.

Swansea Harriers athlete Verity Ockenden (pictured above, 381) clocked 20:17 for an exceptional performance to lead the UK contingent home in fourth place, winning the Cross Challenge. McCormack finished fifth, while Ethiopia’s Alemitu Hawi was sixth and Charlotte Christensen of Cambridge & Coleridge seventh.

Wales’ Jenny Nesbitt was eighth and Fionnuala Ross was the leading Northern Ireland athlete in ninth.


In the preceding age category race programme, Jamie Battle (Ireland) and Eloise Walker (Scotland) won the under-20 races, while in the under-17 category it was Rory Leonard (Morpeth Harriers & AC) and Cera Gemmell (Scotland) who led the way.

In the under-15 event, Angus Williams (Chiltern Harriers AC) won the boys race, with Sian Heslop (Macclesfield Harriers) taking the win in the girls race. The under-13 races kicked off proceedings and it was Frank Morgan (Carmarthern AC) and Valencia Wright (Victoria Park City of Glasgow) who won.

Scotland dominated the Celtic International XC team prizes, winning the senior men’s and woman’s, the under-20 men’s and woman’s and the under-17 woman’s races. Ireland prevented a clean sweep, winning the under-17 men’s prize.

Top 5 international men (7200m): 1. Timothy Cheruiyot (Kenya) – 23:12, 2. Mogos Tuemay (Ethiopia) – 23:12, 3. Soufiane El Bakkali (Morocco) – 23:32, 4. Andy Vernon (Great Britain) – 23:41, 5. Kristian Jones (Wales) – 23:45

Top 5 international women (5400m): 1. Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi (Kenya) – 19:55, 2. Foyten Tesfay (Ethiopia) – 19:56, 3. Bontu Edao Rebitu (Bahrain) – 19:59, 4. Verity Ockenden (Swansea Harriers AC) – 20:17, 5. Alemitu Hawi (Ethiopia) 20:17

» See the January 11 issue of AW for in-depth reports, photos and results from the Antrim International